Undoubtedly, golden hour is the most popular time for photographers. The soft light, with the beautiful warm hue makes this time of day incredible for capturing those magical travel photos. Golden hour travel photography can turn your photos into stunning works of art!
So, whether you’re watching the sunset over the ocean or waking up for sunrise at a canyon, these tips will help you make the most of your golden hour photography.
When is Golden Hour
The best time to take golden hour photos is during the first hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset. With it being the best lighting for photography, you’ll want to make the most of this hour during your travels.
What to Wear During Golden Hour
When taking photos during golden hour you’ll want your subject to wear clothes that are relatively neutral in colour. You’ll be surprised by how much your clothing choice can effect the look and feel of the photo.
Clothing that suites the lighting is important. Earthy colours such as burnt orange, beige, rust, muted yellows, blush pinks and olive greens are often best to suit the landscape and lighting. Bright colours simply don’t suite the softness of the beautiful light during golden hour.
If you’re shooting golden hour photos with the whole family in the frame, try to stick to a colour palate to keep a cohesive look.
Golden Hour Camera Settings
When shooting in manual mode during golden hour, working out what settings to use is key. The settings will vary depending on the amount of light and the subject. It will especially vary between exposing correctly for a portrait versus a landscape photo.
To work out the best camera settings for golden hour, you’ll want to start with your preferred aperture. Remember, the lower the number = the more light. It’s best to have a low aperture for portraits, but if you are shooting a landscape you may need to use a narrower aperture (f/8+)
From there, you’ll want to keep your shutter speed fast, unless you’re after a blurry effect (eg. moving water, car lights).
Once the light starts to disappear, start by lowering your shutter speed rather than increasing your ISO. However, don’t bring your shutter speed too low or your photos won’t be crisp.
The camera settings for sunset photos vs. sunrise photos will be the same. The only difference will be how you change them as the light changes. Essentially, they will be the opposite to each other.
Golden hour camera settings for portraits:
- Aperture: f/1.8 – f/2.8
- Shutter Speed: keep to a minimum of 1/250
- ISO: as low as possible, increase as the light disappears
Golden hour camera settings for landscapes:
- Aperture: minimum f/8
- Shutter Speed: keep to a minimum of 1/250 for crisp image. Open the shutter speed to 10+ seconds for a long exposure shot (you’ll need a tripod for this!)
- ISO: as low as possible, increase as the light disappears.
Read More: How to Shoot in Manual Mode for Beginners
Advanced Camera Settings for Golden Hour
You can easily shoot golden hour by only adjusting the aperture, shutter speed and ISO. However, this will mean having all other options set to auto. If you are looking to fully customise your settings here are a few more options to look at:
- White Balance: Knowing how to adjust the white balance setting for golden hour can make a huge difference to your final image. Switching your white balance to cloudy mode will warm up the colours in the image.
- Metering Mode: It’s best to set your camera to spot metering when shooting during golden hour so you can expose correctly by the subject.
Tips for Shooting During Golden Hour
Learning how to capture the golden hour is one of the best things you can do for your travel photos. Golden hour travel photography can result in some of the most stunning images to take home! Here are some golden hour photography tips for beginner photographers:
- Plan the Location: Since golden hour only lasts for 1 hour, you’ll need to know where you’re going and get there early to set up before the golden hour begins. You won’t have time to go to a bunch of different locations.
- Check the Weather: As a photographer, it is always a good practice to check the weather prior to a shoot. If it is going to be overcast during your shoot, there won’t be any golden light so you may want to consider rescheduling.
- Use Your Time Wisely: You have 1 hour to capture the golden light, so use your time wisely. Capture the most important photos first. You can always do them again at the end if you have time!
- What Direction to Shoot: When shooting during golden hour it is best to shoot towards the sun, but not into it. So, place your subject to the side of the sun.
- Partially Block the Light: If there are no clouds in the sky, the golden hour sun can still be quite harsh and bright. Try using a tree or other object to partially block the light which will soften the overall image.
- Avoid Unwanted Shadows: You’ll have to watch out for unwanted shadows, especially on your subjects face! This could be from their own face, another persons or a surrounding object. To reduce shadows, try changing up your subjects or your position so the light hits them in a different way.
- Composition Tips: While you want to avoid unwanted shadows, you can also use the shadows when composing your image.
- Bring a Tripod: If you plan to do any landscape photography with long exposure shots, make sure your bring a tripod! A tripod will also be useful if you intend to be in the photo and don’t have anyone to take it for your.
- Underexpose Your Images: It is better to underexpose your image rather than having it overexposed. However, I still recommend trying to expose correctly!
- Don’t Discount Blue Hour: Finally, don’t discount blue hour! Blue hour is the 20-30minutes before or after golden hour, once the sun has set. While these tones are cooler, they can still provide a unique photo!
Creative Ways to Use Golden Hour Lighting
Getting creative with photography lighting is a great way to stand out as a photographer! It is also a great way to challenge yourself to improving your photos and skills. Here are some golden hour photo ideas to get you using the light creatively:
Sun flare photography certainly takes a lot of practice! But once mastered, you can capture some incredible photos that really make you feel what the moment was like in reality.
Golden hour is the ideal time to capture a sun flare, as the light is often low and easier to disperse. By partially blocking the sun, you’ll be able to create light rays that will show up on your image.
However, you will need to have your settings correct for this. Here are the basic settings for sun flare photography:
- Aperture: f/5.6 (soft flares) – f/22 (more defined flares)
- Shutter Speed: Will vary, but keep it fast enough so your subject is in focus!
- ISO: Keep your ISO low (100-200) for crisp flares
Silhouettes are a fun way to take photos during golden hour. They are achieved by placing your subject directly in front of the sun, so that they are backlit. This will mean they are a dark outline against the beautiful golden sky!
If you’re wondering how to shoot silhouettes at golden hour, you’ll need to expose your image for the sky rather than the subject. The best settings for silhouette photography are:
- Aperture: around f/11
- Shutter Speed: a minimum of 1/250
- ISO: Keep low, around `100
For a silhouette, you’ll need to have your subject under-exposed!
Photography using reflections is a fun way to take photos at all times of the day. However, at golden hour it can be even more stunning!
For this type of photo you’ll need a source to use for the reflection, such as water or a mirror. Tidal pools at the beach can be a great option for this.
As for settings to use, you’ll be able to use the same settings as you would for any other golden hour image… the biggest task will be taking the photo at the right angle to have the subject in both the image and in the reflection!
Photography during golden hour can be one of the best ways to capture your travel memories, because the photos you’ll get will be stunning! While it may be challenging to learn what camera settings to use at golden hour, your photos will turn out so much better than if taken on auto.